Last Modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 11:35 PM
BATON ROUGE — This time Raph Rhymes got to take his time while touching them all.
A night after huffing and puffing for an inside-the-park home run, the LSU senior took a more conventional route Friday when he launched a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers in the bottom of the eighth to give the Tigers a 5-4 victory over Ole Miss.
“That was definitely easier than last night,” Rhymes said.
He meant the home run — not the victory that clinched the final Southeastern Conference series of the season and the Tigers’ ninth in 10 tries.
It also scratched out a victory in Alex Box Stadium’s first game on freshly dedicated Skip Bertman Field, which was done with great fanfare in pregame.
“I couldn’t let Skip down,” Rhymes said. “This was too big of a night. We did not want to lose on this night.”
The Tigers also got an early jump on Saturday’s Senior Day as fellow senior Mason Katz started the comeback by fighting off two 0-2 pitches before blooping a single into center and Chris Cotton came on to a perfect ninth to earn his 12th save.
“That’s what seniors do for you,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s the experience and the confidence that they have. We didn’t play great tonight by any stretch of the imagination, but we found a way to win in the end. I’m proud of the guys.”
The Tigers (48-7, 23-6 SEC) officially became the winningest regular-season team in school history and the most SEC wins.
“Are you kidding me?” Mainieri said. “With the history of this program? We’ve won games in every imaginable way. Tonight we had to rally from behind.”
LSU will go for the sweep in today’s noon final game of the regular season. But the Tigers, who will start Ryan Eades (8-1, 2.29 ERA), will have to beat Ole Miss ace Bobby Wahl (9-0, 1.43).
Of course, it didn’t look good Friday night either as the Tigers managed five hits through the first seven innings.
None of LSU’s previous three runs had come on a base hits.
But Ole Miss topped that by scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth on a strikeout.
Joey Bourgeois came on to pitch the eighth and opened with a walk. Pinch-runner Cameron Dishon went to second on a wild pitch. Bourgeois got a strikeout on a pitch in the dirt, but Dishon broke for third on catcher Ty Ross’ toss to first and, when first baseman Tyler Moore threw wildly to third, Dishon trotted home easily for a 4-3 Ole Miss lead.
“We didn’t really have to say anything in the bottom of the inning,” Katz said. “We weren’t going to lose this game.”
Former Barbe High pitcher Sam Smith started for the Rebels and cruised through the first three innings on one hit. But he gave up back-to-back singles to Bregman and Katz by to open the fourth. Bregman scored on Rhymes’ sacrifice fly and Katz eventually came in on Smith’s last pitch, a based-loaded walk to put LSU up 2-1.
Reliever Aaron Greenwood struck out Andrew Stephenson and Sean McMullen to get out of it with no further damage.
Another former Barbe-turned-Rebel, Tanner Mathis, scored the Rebels’ first run and hasn’t made an out in the series while going 6-for-6 with two walks, and he’s been hit by a pitch twice.